Trade agreements hold democracy hostage

By Nancy Churchill
Contributor

Did you ever dream that profit could eclipse the right to life in America? That a secret clause known as the ISDS (Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement), buried deep within so-called “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), creates a foreign corporation power to overrule enforcement of U.S. laws such as the COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) Act, which allows you to know where your meat comes from? Because the ISDS grants foreign corporations the right to sue if they believe U.S. laws protecting our right to life will cost them future profits.

Salon.com (1/8/2016) referred to the ISDS as “a dystopian world in which secretive and corrupt corporate courts circumvent the justice system and unaccountable private companies have more power than governments, holding democracy hostage.”

The AFL-CIO defines it as “a special legal right that only those who invest in a foreign country can use to challenge a law, regulation, judicial or administrative ruling or any other government decision.” Such a law allows foreign corporations to “skip domestic courts, administrative procedures, city hall hearings and the like … and sue the host-country government before a panel of private ‘arbitrators.'” These arbitrators “have the power to make decisions in cases, but they are not democratically elected or appointed, and they are not subject to stringent conflict of interest rules.” Nor need they even be citizens of the country being sued.

As if to spotlight how dystopian is the threat buried within these trans-national trade deals, Trans-Canada recently announced a suit under NAFTA against our government for $15 billion for “lost profit” because intense public pressure had forced President Obama to reject its Keystone XL pipeline.

That illustrates perfectly how uniquely anti-democratic and un-American these trade deals are.

Proponents tout the creation of new jobs for Americans within the latest trade deal, the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), an argument debunked by huge manufacturing job losses since the passage of NAFTA in 1993.

A petition site is calling for Congress to reject the TPP [thepetitionsite.com/461/019/960/congress-stand-up-to-corporate-power-vote-no-on-the-tpp]. It points out that if the U.S. government loses this Trans-Canada case, “either the [Keystone XL Pipeline] goes ahead or we hand over a whole lot of taxpayer dollars.” But that will be only peanuts compared to the loss of sovereignty we face under the TPP.

The door is closing fast for public comment before the final Congressional vote on the TPP, just while the nation is most distracted with the presidential primary season. Don’t be deterred. It is up to us to save our democracy — nobody is going to do it for us. Call or write your Congressperson and Senators, and sign the petition now, urging them to “Just say NO!” to the TPP.

We desperately need a new trade model based upon our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — an alternative to the current dystopian template of secret pacts that favor the potential for corporate profits to prevail over laws protecting our land, air and water.

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